What are our Fireworks Celebrating?
By Ken McCormack
The Fourth of July is when “We, the people,” light up the sky with conspicuous consumption – blowing up millions of dollars because it’s pretty. Sometimes, it seems as though we are indeed only killer apes, as the anthropologist said, whose salient feature is a love of things that go “bang.” But the founders thought differently. They aimed their fireworks at bad government, at the “system” that enslaves the rest of us. So what are we celebrating? The trillions of our dollars transferred to the Power Elite in order to save their country?
Tyranny of the Elites
The United States has indeed become a ruthless plutocracy, a system ruled by money. We, the people, are put aside as “ignorant morons,” and the Constitution has been trashed as “a quaint historical document.” Civil liberties that existed for over a thousand years have been casually tossed out the window. The government, including the police and army, now sets itself above the law. there are two kinds of law now – one of them and another for us.
The Elite are a law unto themselves. They demonstrate their absolute power through torture. Torture’s ultimate purpose is to control entire populations. It sends the message, loud and clear, that the power of the state is now absolute. It may arrest us without giving a reason, then imprison, torture and even kill us.
That does have a somewhat chilling effect, no?
It’s the System, Stupid
I am not talking about attacking individuals, but overthrowing the System – what we used to call the Establishment. The corporate-military complex may have rights, but it’s not human. It neither eats food nor breathes air, but rather gobbles up individuals as it breathes profits. Those who foreclose homes, for instance, do not do so because they want to, but because the System demands it. Though we may substitute one king (president) for another on the chessboard, we really have to rid ourselves of the game entirely. This revolution begins as a state of mind – with an irrational hatred of injustice and persecution. The Bill of Rights gives us the tools to proceed.
The game has by now been so internalized, however, that an amazingly high percentage of the public condones torture and supports the roll-back of civil liberties. After all, we are, practically from birth, indoctrinated into a culture of domination based on brute force and security based on violence. Ironically, the rights that can free U.S. have also been used to makes U.S. more docile. The hero of Louis Celine’s Death on the Installment Plan cannot organize a rebellion of Spanish galley slaves because they are content to be allowed up on the poop deck every week to vote.
Take Back the Streets
The time-honored method of revolution is to take to the streets with obnoxious and total disruption of business as usual. Hit the System where it hurts, on the bottom line — disrupt commerce and throw our bodies onto the gears. Stop it. For this, we must forgo the daily dispersal of our efforts into dozens of separate issues. Unite behind one cause. It could be health care, global warming, finance reform, or military spending. But the main thing is to unite in a huge general strike and take back the streets with defiance. Only the time-proven tools of nonviolence can dismantle the monster and regain justice.
You may think I’m dreaming, but that’s the spirit of the Fourth of July. All else is fireworks. Φ
Ken McCormack, a retired journalist and member of OPW’s Board of Directors, volunteers as The PeaceWorker’s Associate Editor.